OLD has definitions for fixated, fixative, but not fixate. This suggests that fixate is not a normal, modern word that one can use in everyday speech or writing... Is this right?

Note: OxfordDictionaries has fixate. I find it strange.

  • 4
    This is not about the English language, but about a publisher's decision to include (or not include) a word in a specific set of words that form a dictionary.
    – Stephie
    Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 19:47
  • 1
    It's phrased that way, but I think the OP is asking what this tells us about the word fixate ("Does it mean fixate is not a formal word?").
    – user230
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 15:29
  • Did you check other dictionaries? I wouldn't be concerned based on what is or is not listed in just one dictionary.
    – user3169
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 17:11
  • 1
    I think this question is as on topic as several others that have been posted recently about words and dictionaries. Or at least I agree with Snailboat that it can be edited to reopen.
    – user6951
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 20:25
  • 1
    It probably means fixate is not as common as fixated. I think that the OLD bases its content on frequency of use. If not, it has some other criteria. Whatever it is, it still seems debatable, as I've probably used fixative less than ten times, but used fixate dozens. But you can 'guess' at a verb (fixate) means if you have the meaning of the participle (fixated).
    – user6951
    Commented Apr 5, 2015 at 20:26

1 Answer 1


There is nothing particularly wrong with this word. Dictionary.com, Websters, Google, and Oxford Dictionaries all list "fixate".

As to OLD - I sent an Email to their contact address to inquire as to this discrepancy. Here is an excerpt from the reply:

This is simply a matter of frequency. The adjective fixated is found much more frequently in our corpus of 2.5 billion words of English than the verb, and the noun fixation is more common still.

It would seem they simply don't consider "fixate" common enough to include. However I hear this kind of thing commonly:

Try not to fixate on the details.

So in my view as a native speaker, fixate is a commonly used modern word. I guess if OLD is missing a word, just try another dictionary.

Remember that there is no arbiter of the English language. What words are part of the language is a matter of consensus among people who speak it. New words pop up, die off, get imported, or get redefined all the time - the dictionary is a resource for understanding, not a definitive guide to vocabulary.

  • 1
    Yet it includes fixative, which to me is much less used than fixate, at least in AmE.
    – user6951
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 16:20
  • 3
    Yeah, I'm not very satisfied with the answer either. Honestly, I even disagree with the answer. I hear things like "try not to fixate on things" all the time. And in "2.5 billion" words. . . fixate is not that uncommon.
    – zeel
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 17:01
  • If "fixated" is the past tense of "fixate", then their decision to include the past tense and not the present is questionable at best - normally, tense differences would be included in the root definition. Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 14:47
  • @GalacticCowboy The adjective fixated is derived from the past participle form. Although the past tense, past participle, and the derived adjective all share the form fixated, they're not the same thing.
    – user230
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 14:51

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .